written 2014, rev. 2/2024

I don't often provide subjective commentary, but here is some opinion and background on SC DMV changing specialty plates to a "standard design"

A legislative bill came up in 2012 to set a standard design for all non-standard plates. I caught that that bill was coming, so I emailed every organizational coordinator I could find an email address for - about 40 in all. Only 4 responded, with the Morris Island Lighthouse and SC Junior Golf Association being the most vocal. Both of those enlisted lobbyists to speak to legislators to ax the bill. They were successful in 2012. In 2013, it resurfaced, so I sent out a similar email, and again, we thought the bill was defeated (also in the bill was a provision that a Legislative Committee would set the fees for all specialty plates - you know what that means). On the last day of the 2013 session, the 'standard design' bill was attached to the bill that created Autism Awareness and a few other plates. It passed quickly within a few hours.

Lobbyists communicated back to organizations that their current design was 'safe' - I heard that from SCV, Parrothead and Morris Island Lighthouse. The law as written says any new plate type, or any type that changes class designation - I read through "class designation" as anytime DMV feels like it.

Legislators will tell you that Law Enforcement was behind getting a standard plate type for legibility and identification. The underlying reason has to do with the Director of DMV who is an Army retiree and believes in strict social conformity. I believe that is why Red, White and Blue will be the base colors of the standard design - regardless of any organizations colors (imagine 'Clemson orange' combined with red/blue bands, or 'Parrothead yellow' with red and blue).

Anyway, a source within DMV has told me that the rumor was that all plate types will transition over the next few years, starting next year. I don't know if there will be any logical order, but I suspect that (like Limestone College) it will be sudden and without warning. New types after May 1, 2014 will be standard-design. I'm disappointed that Peach Council, Don't Tread On Me, Riverkeepers, SC Aquarium, among others will not have the opportunity for some colorful designs - if the organization even cares to proceed with producing a plate.

For the future, I expect some backlash from organizations that were told their designs were safe - especially if it cuts their revenue stream. I suggested to them to have their lobbyists to try to forge a compromise like North Carolina's white bubble around the plate number.

I expect the DMV Commissioner to be around through Gov. McMasters's 2nd term (through 2026). With him gone, and a more understanding Commissioner, and some lobbying to the Legislature, maybe a push to reverse 'standard-design' may happen in 5 years. Stay tuned.

July 2021:

Standard design is a reality across almost all types, with Handicapped plates the latest to transition over. About the only type left is Personalized. The same DMV Commissioner is still in place, and I have not heard any news of any changes on the horizon.